The U.S. is know for lying about everything to start wars that destroy lives, peoples, nations… (see e.g. the book titled “War is a Lie”). That has been clearly the case for Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Syria… perhaps also Sudan.
But is the U.S. also sowing the seeds, planting the lies, to justify it going to war with China? With all my heart, I certainly hope not. But here is an article in Forbes by Stephen Harner, written in response to New York Times’ recent editorial titled “Roaring on the Seas China’s Power Grab Is Alarming”, that brings up how the U.S. may be planting seeds of lies everywhere to pave exactly the path.
I have to say, I agree with most of what Harner has to say. I hope most Americans understand that there is much good will among ordinary Chinese for the U.S., but I hope the American public will also understand that if the U.S. continues to hype China as the enemy, it will inevitably be pushed to become one. Here is a copy of Harner’s article:
The NYTimes’ ‘China Threat’ Myth, The ‘Pivot To Asia,’ And Obama’s Foreign Policy Legacy
We should expect The New York Times , as a loyal retainer of President Obama, now focused on embellishing his administration’s record of accomplishments, to be anxious when it comes to foreign policy. What seemed the task at the end of the first term was to laud Hillary Clinton’s non-stop peregrinations and to claim (prematurely) that the President had placed the United States on the “right side of history” in the Middle East.
Now, with the Middle East in turmoil, and Obama’s first term now widely acknowledged to have been (with the exception of the exit from Iraq) singularly devoid of significant foreign policy achievements, it has become The Times’ task to ensure that one Obama initiative retains enough apparent legitimacy to inform his legacy.
That initiative is Obama’s strategic military “pivot” or “rebalance” to Asia, the decision to redeploy 60% of American air and sea power to Asia by 2020. Why? To counter to an aggressive, hegemonic, expansionist China. Never mind that the narrative of an expansionist China is a myth.
We see The Times propounding–and building–the China-as-aggressor myth again in a June 18 editorial entitled “China’s Power Grab is Alarming.” The editorial speaks of “worries in Washington and elsewhere about Beijing’s continued bullying in energy-rich [South China Sea] waters….”
The editorial cites “Beijing’s efforts to assert sovereignty over the many specks of rock dotting the South China Sea,” including now “the piling of sand on isolated reefs and shoals to create what amounts to new islands in the Spratly archipelago,” and “a strongly worded statement last month by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel condemning China’s ‘destabilizing, unilateral actions in the South China Sea.’”
The Times continues: “China insists that the Spratlys, Paracels and other islands have always belonged to China. But Vietnam also claims sovereignty, and parts of them are claimed by the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.”
So, may we now conclude that The Times’ case for China as aggressor–and by extension the ‘pivot’ as a necessary and proper strategic response–is made? To do so would be swallowing the myth. The reality is almost completely the opposite.
China claims sovereignty over the Spratlys and Paracels islands in the South China Sea. By China, we should understand not just the People’s Republic in Beijing, but its post-1911 predecessor, the Republic of China (i.e., the government on Taiwan), and the great China’s imperial dynasties dating back at least 1000 years. The claim is based inter alia on discoveries by the Ming dynasty admiral Zheng He and by occupation of islands and exploitation of the surrounding waters for fishing by Chinese fishermen for hundreds of years.
The famous “nine-dash line” is an expression of China’s historical claims. It was first transposed on Chinese maps in 1947 when France (then still the suzerain of Vietnam) and the Philippines began a diplomatic campaign to assert their claims in post-WWII forums dealing with Japan’s imperial conquests (which included the islands).
Five times–in 1970, 1971, 1978, 1980, and 1999–Philippine armed forces took actions that have placed nine islands claimed by China under foreign occupation. Since occupying the islands, the Philippines has proceeded to build military installations and station some 1000 men on them.
Beyond occupying the islands, Manila has for years taken actions highly provocative to China, including arresting and expelling Chinese fisherman fishing in the disputed area. Chinese protests have been dismissed. In June 2011 the office of PI president Aquino declared that the South China Sea would henceforth be called the West Philippine Sea. In July 2011 a delegation of Philippine legislators landed on a Chinese-claimed island, declaring Philippine “sovereignty.”
Against this background, what we–and The Times–should find remarkable is not China’s “maximalist stance in territorial disputes,” to quote the editorial, but Beijing’s restraint.
On the recent altercation with Vietnam over Chinese drilling operations, on May 15, three days after Secretary of State John Kerry called the operations “provocative” and an “aggressive act,” People’s Liberation Army Chief of the General Staff General Fang Fenghui, on a reciprocal visiting to the Pentagon, said the following. Quoting DoD’s transcript of the press conference:
“China is conducting the exploitation activity within 12 nautical miles of the Zhongjian Islands which is a part of the Paracel Islands. And this is an activity conducted within our territorial water.
“And secondly, the related countries in the South–in the South China Sea have drilled actually many oil wells in the South China Sea, but China has never drilled even one. From this single fact, we can see how much restraint China has exercised. And the purpose of this restraint is to keep–to maintain the stability of the South China Sea region.
“We have an enduring position of putting aside disputes and achieve [sic] common exploitation. But while China is holding this position, other nations are drilling oil wells in this region. So that’s–this is the status quo. And I have to underscore it is only under this background that we are conducting the exploitation activity within the Zhongjian island.”
What to make of the facts and context above, and the absence in The Times’ editorial of any mention of them?
The Times remains a reliable organ of the American “internationalist” establishment–the Pentagon, defense industry, national security and intelligence bureaucracies and “think tanks.” For this establishment, American “leadership”–in reality hegemony backed by unchallengeable military power, deployed the world over–is and must remain the sine qua non of a stable international order, particularly in Asia.
The Obama White House has been a servant of this establishment, and Obama’s militarized ‘pivot to Asia” policy is the Establishment’s top priority initiative.
The supreme irony is that the ‘pivot’ policy–in essence an American reprise of Cold War “containment”now directed at China, fueling an arms race and U.S. alliance structure that is a growing threat to China–has emboldened the Philippines and Vietnam, as well as Japan, to oppose and challenge China, and to decline to negotiate in good faith to resolve disputes.
Doing its duty for the Establishment, and for Obama’s legacy, The New York Times is propagating a “China threat” myth and is biased, unfair, untrue, and, in the end, dangerous for the United States.
May thanks for Zack for pointing out the article in the open forum.